AFC North Q&A: Is Vontaze Burfict dirty or just ultra-competitive?

Today's question: Vontaze Burfict isn't a player who inspires ambivalence. The love-him-or-hate-him reaction to the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker is based on his style of play, which at best is All-Pro caliber and at worst is considered over the line. He will serve a three-game suspension to start 2016 after a hit to Antonio Brown caused a season-ending concussion for the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver in last season's wild-card playoff game. The question is: Does the rest of the division view Burfict as dirty or just ultra-competitive?

Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Can the answer be both? There is no personal animus between the Cleveland Browns and Burfict, but his past seems to be prelude. He has been fined time and again, and his hit on Brown in the playoff loss was late and dangerous. The Browns respect Burfict's talent. But they also know that until he channels that talent completely the right way, he will continue to have issues.

Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Dirty, and you can underscore that. Some might think Burfict has become public enemy No. 1 in the Ravens’ locker room since Hines Ward is retired. In last year’s finale, guard John Urschel called out Burfict by tweeting out a video of the linebacker blindsiding Maxx Williams with a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked the Baltimore tight end off his feet. The ball wasn’t even coming in Williams’ direction. That wasn't the Ravens' first run-in with Burfict. In 2014, wide receiver Torrey Smith was hit late by Burfict after he was already shaken up from a collision with Adam Jones. “He’s a heck of a player,” Smith said. “He’s a dirty one, too.” In the 2012 draft, the Ravens were one of the teams linked to Burfict but decided not to select him. “There were other players who we felt had better qualities to be Baltimore Ravens,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said at the time.

Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: The disdain opposing players have for Burfict reaffirms the belief that he’s dirty, and I try not to throw around that word casually. But players know when a guy has good intentions. They believe Burfict crossed that plane a long time ago. And not just Steelers players. Many across the league have taken notice. The rep will be difficult to shake. On some levels, I understand his approach. He was undrafted out of Arizona State. Playing with an edge maximizes his play and sustains his livelihood. This is on Marvin Lewis, too, because something isn’t connecting with Burfict, who’s a heck of a player save for the antics. Maybe the three-game suspension will resonate. Lewis must do something to breed composure. And let’s just say the Steelers will be disappointed when they play Cincinnati in Week 2 without Burfict, who played a role in injuring Pittsburgh’s three best offensive players.